Nov 20, 2016

A 95-year birthday and a 4 year anniversary

It is lighting up the November dark outside my balcony window. An hommage to my dad. He used to decorate the railing of the back porch in my childhood home. Twisting pine twigs with lights around the railing at Christmas time. Light wires weren’t common in Sweden when I grew up and I don’t where he had found this. But the more rare and beautiful it was. I remember being proud about our special back porch and my father’s skills. Pottering was unusual for a man.

This summer I finally fixed a power outlet on my balcony with the only purpose of making my balcony railing as beautiful as my dad’s. I need to be practical though. Although I am surrounded by pine trees it’s too hard for me to cut the twigs and make them stick to the railing. So I bought a package of fake twigs and lights-combo at a cheap store. It really looks nice though this hommage to my father and it makes me feel like he is here with me.

Today would have been my dad’s 95 year-birthday. He passed away though, the day after his 83rd. I miss him everyday.

A different anniversary happened on Thursday. Marking four years since my back crashed and I started needing help in my everyday life.

As much as my dad left too soon and as much as I miss him I am often thinking it was a blessing he didn’t have to see his daughter in this situation. My back problems started more than 30 years ago and I know it was painful to him seeing me suffer. And needing to ask for help with all those things he taught me. Changing the tires, attaching a shelf to the wall, saw wood, painting the front porch. Well, that was long ago, now I need help with the most basic things.

The most important for a Swede is to fend. It is deep down in our culture. To not be a burden to anyone, not to other people and not to the society. Although the welfare state is (or has been) the Swedish soul, asking for help when you are weak and vulnerable is a failure. It’s the receipt for that we are in fact weak and vulnerable. 

We are not thinking twice about payed parental leave, child benefit, payed sick leave and state student grants, they are as natural as rain to us and I would say we are perceiving them more like human rights. But to apply for the help we are entitled to when we are becoming at age is to surrender to fragility. Giving in to that our life is over in the western way of perceiving it. It’s the proof of us not fending. 

My mother was sickly for many years at the end of her life and my father took care of her. He did not want people in the house doing the cleaning and helping out with food and grocery shopping. He wanted to fend. 

It is also a matter of dignity of course. It is an art form keeping your dignity while needing help from others. I am sure my father would have performed that art well if he had surrendered to it. But to watch his daughter surrendering at the young age of 56 I think would have broke his heart.

The first two weeks of November came with snow and my pine/light wire looked like Christmas, just like my father’s. It’s gone now, the rains are falling in the deep dark. But the lights are helping. On the 95-year birthday.

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